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Phineas Parkhurst Quimby: His Complete Writings and Beyond

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Is There Any Curative Quality in Medicine?

Common opinion would answer that there is, and according to my opinion there is, but it is all owing to the patient's belief, and to perfect wisdom there is no curative virtue in medicine.

I will relate one case out of a hundred to show how medicine proves itself according to the patient's belief or the direction of some other person. I was attending a gentleman who was sick and he thought he had consumption but was not fully settled in his own mind; so of course he was very nervous. Under this nervousness, the glands around the throat were excited and kept him hacking and raising a white frothy substance and also kept him heated, which heat would he thrown off in a perspiration. After I had told him the cause of his trouble, the explanation so far as he understood it relieved him; he breathed more easily and was improving. One day he read in a paper an advertisement of a medicine which would cure the catarrh and prevent the discharges from the head. Thinking it might cure him, he bought a bottle and commenced taking it; but instead of lessening the secretion, it grew worse and he ran down very fast.

My theory explains the fact in this way. His belief admitted that his head was diseased and in the condition of a sore and that the medicine would cure it. Under this belief the glands of the nose were excited and the medicine then proved his belief that the matter was in his head, for it was taken to make the head discharge. His belief did this by exciting the glands and the medicine was taken to throw it off; so when the matter and even blood commenced running, it showed that the medicine was doing what it agreed to do. But another belief came up that I had given him, for I had exposed the absurdity of medicine; and after he saw the effect, he remembered what I had told him. And abandoning his medicine he returned to me again, and in a few days recovered what he had lost. This is how the disease worked. His own wisdom or knowledge produced the phenomenon; his knowledge gave the medicine the praise or blame just as people give God the praise for their own acts while the devil has to take the blame for their troubles. I have observed the effect of medicine and have found that there is more virtue or misery in the advertisement than in the medicine.

Everyone knows how the mouth will water by a desire for something that the person wants and how the mouth and throat will become parched by fear of detection in crime. This was known by the ancients and magicians, and from the fact that the mind could be changed by fear so that criminals could be detected, those who understood it took advantage of it to detect a thief. The magicians made a paste that would dissolve when laid on the tongue of a person in a perfectly calm state of mind; but in case of unusual warmth or feverish thirst, it would not dissolve. So when a theft was committed by the servants, all the people were collected in one room and the magician was sent for. Believing in his power, their minds of course were controlled by their knowledge; and if the thief were present, he knew it and being sure of detection grew nervous. This would prevent the glands from acting and thus bring out his guilt. The others feeling innocent were safe, for if they were nervous it did not produce the state of mind to prevent the past from dissolving. So the mind was the medium to detect the thief and out of his own mouth he was condemned. People put extravagant confidence in medicine supposing that it contains curative qualities. Frequently Indian doctors appear who have discovered an herb or root to cure some disease that man is afflicted with, as though God had made both the disease and its cure. The same class of people say that God has made a remedy for every disease, showing that their superstition is woven into a belief that God made all diseases and made medicines to cure them. This is the belief of mankind and it is not strange that man has gone out of the way.

Now I disbelieve in diseases and remedies as understood by the world and know that diseases and all their remedies are man's invention and the whole effect is brought about by their own belief. Here is my belief in regard to the way diseases are brought about. If you tell a lie or a truth to a person and the person believes it, the effect on the person is the disease. To cure him is to expose the falsehood to his senses. To do this I use my reason for medicine and it acts as a stimulant or alternative as the case may be, while the doctors apply their remedies in the form of medicine.

Oct. 1862

The Same Subject Concluded.

The opinion that God has provided a remedy for every disease gives rise to a belief that there are certain roots and herbs intended by the Creator to cure all diseases. Absurd as this seems, it is the belief of ninety-nine out of a hundred; and this being the case, a door is open to quackery, for new discoveries will come up every day. Dr. Herrick's pills, Ayers' sarsaparilla, and countless others are advertised as the cure-all, being the result of long acquaintance with vegetable medicines and their curative qualities. Then follow certificates of cures and of recommendations from some M.D., and these give the medicines a run. Next a man comes who exhibits the effect of laughing gas and also states that it will cure neuralgia and rheumatism, and the sick rush to him for a time. After he goes, a learned M.D. arrives with flaming advertisements announcing free lectures on anatomy and the digestive organs. He explains the action of these organs and dwells upon the danger of getting sick by over-eating and drinking, receives some fifty dollars from the poor sick and leaves.

Among the throng of humbugs, when all seems dark and despairing, an announcement is whispered in the ear of the sick that God has opened a way for their recovery and sent an angel of mercy who has discovered a flower that will cure everything that can be cured. So here is introduced an imposter who will give Lobelia emetics till they cease to affect the patient, pretending that all diseases must yield to it. This has its day and another comes up. All this goes to show that the mind of man is like an old fiddle played on by every kind of quackery relating to roots and herbs. Now I know all about these things. With my wisdom I understand them all as Job said to Zophar, “What ye know the same do I know also; I am not inferior unto you.” I use nothing, yet I could easily use all kinds of drugs. Then Job said “Ye are forgers of lies, ye all physicians of no value. Oh, that ye would altogether hold your peace and it should be your wisdom.” This expresses the opinion of Job about the classes I have mentioned. He said at another time “No doubt that ye are the people and wisdom shall die with you.” He saw that these wise men and philosophers were an injury to the progress of science. His God was a God of wisdom and proved all things by his science. Therefore he knew all they knew and saw it was only an opinion. So he said their wisdom would die with them, but he know that his wisdom would not, for his life was in his wisdom and that was his science. He could see that all they said amounted to nothing. Job believed in a God but had not really attached his own senses to his wisdom as a progressive being.

I have seen the working of popular belief and know that diseases and remedies are the invention of man, and the very proof which is brought to establish their wisdom goes to substantiate what I say. For instance, an emetic everyone thinks is to clean out the stomach. So when people have eaten too much, they can take a Lobelia emetic; also if they think their lungs are diseased, take a Lobelia emetic, and if they have the dropsy, take the same. Now I will call your attention to what this belief amounts to carried out toward God. What kind of a God is it that made the earth to bring forth trees, herbs and everything that hath life? All this was before man was created; therefore did He make these medicines and the codfish with a liver to cure consumption before the disease was made? This belief would certainly suppose that God made the remedies before the disease, and if He made all the remedies these quacks say He did, He certainly is the greatest enemy to mankind. Absurd as this sounds, we believe it and are affected by our beliefs, and this makes man the most dependent of all God's creatures. He is merely a target to be fired at by every person's opinion. I can show by facts that every person will admit that no kind of medicine has any more effect of itself than almost any kind of food or drink that we use daily, but our ignorance placed some kind of virtue in them as we place wisdom in some one's opinion. The truth which places all disease in the mind can explain the operation of remedies. God is Wisdom and man is opinion; therefore man cannot live in Wisdom and be diseased. But the child of wisdom reduced to science is held in bondage by opinions, and to show that there are diseases according to the belief of man is to show that they are made by circumstances which cannot be controlled except by correcting the error that brought them about, while ignorance would prescribe some medicine that God had made from the foundation of the world.

October 1862

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